As many of you know, one of our directors, Peter Anderson, spent over three months in Nepal guiding on Mt. Everest. We heard updates about the never-ending, yet mind-blowingly beautiful trek in, projectile vomiting, training Sherpa, the challenges of the extreme elevation, heinous storms, and invites to the Nepali Palace and British Embassy to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first successful climb. Our anecdotal relays would not do the adventure justice, so here is Peter’s experience in his own words:

After four years of teaching in Tanzania and Kenya, I was given the opportunity to guide Mount Everest for International Mountain Guides (IMG) during the same time period as our previously scheduled courses in East Africa. After working as a professional mountain guide for 15 years, Everest had become a guiding goal, so I felt torn between two of my passions and professions (guiding and teaching wilderness medicine in some of the most spectacular locations in the world). After much personal contemplation and discussion with SOI’s co-director, Rob Lindner, we came to the decision that this offer to guide the highest mountain on earth should not be passed on. Additionally, with much preparation and a team of extremely skilled instructors, I knew that SOI would have no problem maintaining the high teaching standards that we value.

The experience of going to the Khumbu valley of the Himalaya for three months turned out to be a challenging and incredibly rewarding adventure. The trip started with more logistics than I could have imagined, and I was tasked with preparing our extensive medical kits and supplies. As with any trip, a sense of calmness took over as soon as we hit the trail and began our acclimatization and ascent to Everest base camp at approximately 17,500 feet. As part of our acclimatization program, we made a successful ascent of Lobuche Peak (just over 20,000 feet) before settling into our new home on the ice at Everest base camp.

Khumbu Icefall

After two separate rotations of climbing up through the Khumbu Icefall and eventually spending one night at Camp 3 (approximately 23,500 feet), we rested at base camp in preparation for our summit bid. With a decent looking weather window ahead, we launched up the mountain staying the night at each camp before reaching Camp 4 at the South Col (26,300 feet). At approximately 9 pm, we started our summit attempt, but were stopped at the Balcony (27,500 feet) due to worsening wind, blowing snow, cold temperatures, and poor visibility. After such hard work, it was discouraging to descend all of the terrain we had covered, back to Camp 2 (approximately 21,000 feet). Given the good planning, logistics, and infrastructure of IMG’s Everest program, and another weather window rapidly approaching, we turned our crampons back up hill after a mere 24 hours of rest at Camp 2. The challenge of going back up to such high altitudes was not only physically demanding, but also incredibly psychologically taxing.

Back at the South Col, we set out even earlier in the evening for our summit bid due to the prediction of over 100 climbers making an attempt that day. Most climbers do not think of Everest as a very technical mountain because of the fixed ropes that secure you to the mountain, but the terrain above the South Col is steeper, more challenging, and hugely exposed. The route was busy that day which required a lot of passing of other slow moving teams. As I reached the South Summit (28,700 feet), the first rays of sun began to hit the summit ridge. Beyond the spectacular views that began to emerge, the sun added warmth and the many hours of day light to come lifted my spirits. At 0618 on May 21st I stepped onto the highest point on earth (29,035 feet) with tears of joy and a sense of accomplishment never felt before. After sustaining a head injury, a broken neck, broken ribs, and bruised lungs only one and a half years prior in a bad car accident, I also finally had a feeling of being healed with this accomplishment.

As I waited on the summit for our remaining clients, I continued to check the time and my remaining oxygen knowing that I was only halfway done with the day. Descending safely is the most important and dangerous part of any climb. With plenty of photos taken and views enjoyed, I started down the route. This year IMG guides and Sherpa had secured a rope rappel to bypass the bottleneck of the Hillary Step which has historically created long delays and is at least partially responsible for past deaths as a result of the wait. I quadruple checked my rappel setup and stepped over the overhanging rappel looking directly down nearly 8,000 feet to Camp 2. I can only guess how fast my heart was beating being the third person in the world to make this rappel. The rappel proved very safe and also saved me 20 minutes of waiting in line at the Hillary Step.

Our descent from the summit to base camp was fortunately safe and efficient. Back at base camp, tents were already being broken down. While safe at base camp, I couldn’t help but think of the fact that at least nine people had died in the course of this season on Everest. This remains a stark reminder of the dangers of climbing, especially at such high altitudes. After one day of rest we hiked out in two days and made the flight back to Kathmandu and the comforts and chaos of a big city.

Even over two months later, the reality of having summited Everest after climbing it nearly one and a half times is barely setting in. While the summit views remain in the forefront of my mind, the more valuable memories are those of people. From our customers to the incredible working relationship between the fantastic crew of US IMG guides and our very talented crew of professional Sherpa guides, the bonding of people that mountains create remains one of the most important reasons I love and continue to climb high. That said, returning home to friends, family and news of very successful courses in Africa was wonderful and reminded me how much I missed being in Tanzania amongst friends and students there. It is good to be home and allow for my mind and body to recover from a long, but wonderful adventure.

For more information on IMG’s climb visit: IMG Everest 2013.